I don’t remember exactly when I heard the term programmatic advertising for the first time, but lately I’ve been getting a lot of questions about it so I thought I’d spend a little time explaining what it is, and why it matters in plain English.
“Programmatic Advertising – The use of software to purchase digital advertising in lieu of manual insertion orders.”
Plain and simple, programmatic advertising is nothing more than the process of using software to purchase digital advertising on various platforms and or sites instead of letting humans negotiate rates and place insertion orders. The main reason that this “matters” is as a result of the increased speed and efficiency that it brings and the elimination of menial tasks that we’ve had to deal with in the past like sending insertion orders in to publishers etc. That doesn’t mean that the machines are taking over. It still takes a marketer with a keen vision to architect a successful strategy, put the pieces together, and optimize campaigns.
Ironically, the benefit here is also the danger. Think of it in terms of a hammer and nail versus a nail gun. As inefficient as the use of a hammer and nail are, they force the absolute deliberate placement of each nail because of the effort required. The manual placement process was fairly similar. It required a certain deliberate intent, review, and confirmation. The effortlessness of a single mouse click that automates purchases, much like the nail gun analogy, creates a process that if left unchecked could cost clients money.
In the end everything moves forward at the rate that the market dictates, and no doubt that this year we will hear about more success stories like Red Roof Inn’s programmatic buying of ads in airports when flights were cancelled that increased booking rates by 60%, but we will also hear stories like Gary Vaynerchuk never buying a Samsung product again because their ads kept blocking the screen on his mobile phone when he refreshed a page while waiting for an update. After all, a tool is only as good as the person that uses it.